BEEF bits

Feb 20, 2009
by WLJ

BEEF bits

Saudi Arabia opening to Canadian beef

Canadian beef exporters will have access to the lucrative Saudi Arabian market for the first time since 2003, said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “Step by step, this government is reopening markets to Canadian beef producers,” said Ritz. “Canadian producers want to make their living in the marketplace and we are leveling the playing field to give the industry the opportunities it needs to be stable and profitable.” Saudi Arabia was Canada’s sixth largest market for exports of beef prior to a bovine spongiform encephalopathy-related ban imposed in 2003. The agreement reopens the Saudi Arabian market to Canadian boneless beef exports from animals under 30 months of age. The Canada Beef Export Federation estimates that full market access to Saudi Arabia would allow Canadian beef exporters to re-establish previous export levels worth nearly $6 million.

Chefs learn about the beef industry

The Texas Beef Council (TBC) recently hosted the “Texas Chef Seminar” where 25 leading chefs from across the state gathered for a two-day hands-on learning experience about the beef industry. The seminar, held at Texas A&M University, takes chefs through live animal production, a harvesting demonstration, quality grading and carcass fabrication.

The attendees also learn the factors impacting beef’s tenderness, palatability and the aging process. For over 10 years, TBC has offered this seminar in efforts to educate chefs about the beef production process and the science behind the beef products they serve in their restaurants.

2009 may prove challenging for exports

U.S. meat exports had a strong showing last year, but the global economic slowdown could make 2009 a challenging year for sales, especially to China and Russia, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Total U.S. beef exports rose 10.8 percent in volume and 16.5 percent in value in December versus a year ago. For the calendar year, export volumes rose 28 percent to 984,712 metric tons, or nearly 2.2 billion pounds, while values jumped 38 percent to $3.6 billion.

“Mexico continues to dominate as the largest market for U.S. beef, while Canada is consistent with the previous two months and the first quarter of 2008, although well below volumes seen in the second and third quarters of this year,” said USMEF economist Erin Daley. “And exports to Japan are up 29 percent for December and 59 percent for the year in volume.”

AFBF launches consumer Web site

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recently launched a Web site targeted at consumers. The site, Your Agriculture, at, is aimed at educating the non-farming public about agriculture issues, farmers and ranchers and the food, fiber and fuel they grow. “The average American is three generations removed from the farm and does not have a clear understanding of where their food comes from,” said AFBF Director of Public Relations Don Lipton. The Your Agriculture site includes: A “Meet a Farmer” section which profiles a farmer or rancher each month with an audio slideshow and Q&A; a series of quizzes to test the public’s farm IQ and determine if they are “smarter than a fifth grade farm kid”; a consumers’ guide to farm policy and agriculture issues; and farm fact sheets.

Brazilian beef exports plummet

Brazilian beef exports plummeted 35 percent in January, compared with the same month last year, amid the global economic downturn. The Brazilian Beef Exporters Association said the country’s meat producers exported 81.8 million metric tons in January, compared with 124.7 million metric tons in January last year. Otavio Cancado, the association’s executive director, is quoted as saying the decline occurred primarily because international beef buyers could not get credit. Brazilian beef exports fetched $255.7 million in January, down 45 percent from the same month last year.

ConAgra stands by earnings estimates

ConAgra Foods Inc. executives told equity analysts recently that they stand behind their expectation that fiscal 2009 earnings will be above analysts’ predictions.

ConAgra expects 2009 earnings to come in above $1.50 per share when the fiscal year ends in May, whereas the average forecast on Wall Street is $1.46 for the year. An ongoing restructuring in the company’s consumer foods business will pay off in the fourth quarter with an increase in net earnings over the fiscal third quarter, execs reportedly said. More than 60 percent of ConAgra’s revenues are generated by the consumer foods business, which includes brands such as Healthy Choice and Banquet. ConAgra also said that earnings in fiscal 2010 will be above 2009 levels as commodity costs moderate and brands turn in a better performance, but company officials did not offer a specific number.